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First drive review: Mk3 Ford Focus RS

Review updated by Jay Kay   05 March 2017 09:03 pm | Motoring

The 2016 Mk3 Ford Focus RS has been heralded by the media as being god incarnated and a genuine Mk7 Golf R slayer... but is it??

Score 4.0 / 5   RRP £34000.00

Pros: Excellent handling, adequate gear shifts, fun launch control programme

Cons: Handles like a Golf R, interior will bother nit pickers, rear diff problem


Engine: 2261cc

Cylinders: 4

Power: 345

Torque: 325lb/ft

Transmission: 6 speed Manual

Acceleration: 4.7sec

Top Speed: 165mph

Fuel: 27mpg

CO2: 175g/km

Road Tax: H

Release Date: 2016-01-01

Verdict: Awesome car but i'll keep my Mk7 Golf R DSG

2017 Mk3 Ford Focus RS still has the rear diff overheat issue

In all my years as a petrol head, I've never known a car get as much hype from the motoring press as the Mk3 Ford Focus RS. It has been said that this car is so much fun, so econonomical and so practical that it is the best car money can buy. Now, reading all of this hype made me feel a bit of a prat in buying my Mk7 Golf R DSG. Although the Golf R got rave reviews, it was never called "god incarnate"!

It got worse too because not only was the Mk3 Ford Focus RS better than the Mk7 Golf R in everyway, shape and form, it was also cheaper by over £1000 and because its a RS badged Ford you were guaranteed to get your money back in the short term and make a profit in the long term. My Golf R has just lost almost £10000 and it isn't even a year old yet! Worse still it was also touted as being a car which is "better than the BMW M2". So with all these reviews thrown at me, I safely concluded that the Mk3 Focus RS would be the car which I'd be begging the dealer to sell me. So I decided to head out to my nearest Ford retailer, test drive this car and was fully prepared to be coming home broke after buying another new car.

Starting as usual with the looks. This car is in your face aggressive. There is no denying the fact that this is a performance hot hatch. The glaring head lights, the huge air intakes, the RS badge on the front grille and of course the bonnet!

Even a person who isn't a petrol head can tell that this car has some sort of seriousnous about it! A lot of people don't like it's looks, comparing them to those of the Fk2 Type R and saying there is no need to be so blatant. I disagree because I don't think there is anything wrong with flaunting it if you've got it. This car has certainly got the performance to back up its looks. So its a thumbs up for the front of the car as far as im concerned; I like it a lot.

As for the side of the car I'm not sure what the designers at Ford were thinking. It looks hideous to my eyes and because the side of the car looks so strange to me, it lets the wheels down. I really like the wheels of this car and think they look fantastic, certainly capturing the spirit of the RS's performance heritage. Still when it comes to actually driving the car, you wont really care about what the car looks like! Then we come to the rear of the car which isn't any better either. Yes it looks aggressive just like the front, it has the big spoiler, a rear diffuser and the twin exhausts, but i just don't like the look of it! But again looks are subjective, so one mans trash is another mans treasure!

One of the only big complaints by the media was that the interior could be better. I have to say though that when it comes to buying a car as a spare toy interior quality really doesn't bother me. Reports suggest that the interior is poor quality and should be so much better for a car of this callibre and that may be true, but then I always say, look at the Mclaren F1... what happened with that interior!? Then there is the Porsche GT3 RS which as fantastic as that car is, that interior is hideous! A true petrol head doesn't care about interior if they are buying the car as a toy in my opinion. If you saw my BMW M2 test drive video, you will know that I said the exact same thing there too.

You might be thinking that comparing a hatch back with two race track cars is a stupid thing to do and it might well be. But for my needs and purposes and for how the Mk3 Focus RS is sold to us (as being a high performance experience) and where racing and sprinting are concerned you really shouldn't care about the interior cabin. Which brings me to how the car actually drives.

The first thing I'll say is that this car could almost be a daily driver. The ride in normal mode handles every day roads well. We took this car on some dual carriage way driving which was a cruise of 70mph, some town driving pottering around at 30mph on some pretty rough roads and the Mk3 Focus RS handled these daily tasks very well. The ride feels firmer than a Golf R but softer than the FK2 Type R and that is good, very good! If the ride is too soft for you though, you can stiffen the dampers using the button on the driving wheel column which stiffens the ride by 40% but you'll never need to use that in my opinion. The boot is big and spacious too and there is plenty of room in the back for your friends or your children. So far so good then but that is where it ends.

The seats that I sat in were the £1000 extras and they felt too firm. They were fine for the B road part of the drive, but even the dealer agreed with me when I said the seats were too firm for long journeys. Then there was the clutch which I found to be too firm. Of all the cars I have driven so far, this clutch remains - by far - the firmest clutch I have ever used. Obviously for my needs this wouldn't be a problem, but to use this clutch day in - day out, riding it during rush hour, during road work traffic I just couldn't stomach it! It's just far too firm. Having said that you'd probably get used to it, but why should you have to?

Just mentioning the spec of the particluar model I test drove. After using the Ford car configurator with the dealer you see that to get a similar spec Focus RS as my Golf R would cost over £34000. This makes the Focus RS more expensive that what I paid for my Golf R DSG. So that is the first claim by the media I have proven wrong - where they claimed it was £1000 cheaper than the Golf R DSG.

That is the negative stuff out of the way however and I can tell you that this car is an absolute pleasure to drive. Putting the car in Sport mode obviously makes the car fiery, more agile, more responsive and a lot louder! The car hunkers down very well when going fast, were turn in on corners is a pleasure, giving smooth, planted, confident handing while giving the driver plenty of feedback. This is a fantastic chassis, mated with excellent steering wheel control. The gear changes let the car down a little bit, but they are better than the BMW M2 - where that gear change feels a bit clunky and a bit long on the change.

The launch control feature is brilliant as well. I'd say its a lot better than the Mk7 Golf R DSG, not because it feels more manic and powerful because it doesn't. Power delivery of both this car and the Golf R DSG from launch feels pretty similar to me. What makes this cars' launch control more fun - where it will entertain your passengers - is the fact you have to configure the car to do it via a series of options. Where as with the Golf R DSG all you have to do is switch off the ESC. Apparently the launch control process of this car is like that of the Nissan R35 GTR. Very exciting stuff!

To conclude this review then I can confirm that this car is fantastic, and you will be happy in owning one. However it is not as good as media hype suggested because if that were true, i'd be sat here now looking at a Focus RS parked on my drive, where the Golf R DSG used to be! Instead I still have my Golf R sat staring at me. I can also confirm that this car is not better than the BMW M2 either. Of all three cars - if I were to do it again - I'd buy the BMW M2. So the lesson here is, don't believe the hype! 4 stars for a daily, 5 stars if you want this car for a spare toy